How to know when you need a rebrand? (and when you don’t)

By Stephen Murphy | Branding Strategist

 

Definition: REBRAND

To change the way that an organisation, company or product is seen
by the public

Cambridge Dictionary

This is a subject that we’re often asked about by CEOs and Business Owners.  It’s as important to know when a rebrand is needed as to when it’s not.  Rebranding is specifically concerned with existing companies, services or products and is not something to be entered into lightly.  If you’re sending a new message to your customers about your brand, you better make sure it’s clear, consistent and ultimately benefits them.

Reasons to rebrand

 

1/ Your sales are steadily slipping – This can be for one of many reasons but generally speaking, sustained sales erosion is usually a strong indication that your brand is in trouble.  Left unchecked or even employing token marketing initiatives such as discounts and promotions will do little to reverse this situation.

 

2/ Your brand is losing market share to competitors – If your competitors are successfully launching new products backed by heavy marketing spend, your position share will inevitably be eroded.

 

3/ You’re extending your offering - If you’ve decided to diversify into new areas, your old brand may not be appropriate for the new entity. This is particularly relevant during merger and acquisition activity.

 

4/ You’re expanding into overseas markets – Since the advent of the digital age, the world has become increasingly homogenous.  Nonetheless, local markets, languages, cultures, customs, needs and wants have to be acknowledged and catered for in order to succeed. Messaging and visuals that are appropriate in Ireland may not be in China or India. Name, colours, imagery and messaging are some of the key factors that need careful consideration.

 

5/ Your brand is successful but has become boring and stale – Your message and experience may be out of synch with current consumer interests and tastes. Your brand identity (logo, tagline and other identifying elements) may have fallen out of step with current design and cultural trends. You risk disconnecting with your audience.

 

6/ Your customers struggle to differentiate your brand from its competition - This may be because you or your competitor have introduced a very similar offering with similar messaging.  Regardless, when two or more competing brands occupy the same positioning, it usually leads to a discount or marketing war where nobody really benefits except the customer.  If your audience doesn’t have a distinct reason to purchase your product or service over another, then your brand is weak. Remember ‘Marketing brings the customer to your door; branding keeps them coming back again and again’.

 

7/ Your brand identity is a mess with inconsistent touchpoints - The key brand- killer is inconsistency.  If you’re sending mixed messages to your customers, they won’t thank you for it and are likely to demonstrate displeasure with their feet.

If you promise your customer something, you better keep that promise.  Every time your audience interfaces with your brand is an experience touchpoint (e.g. website, customer service call, brochure, packaging etc. You’re only as good as their last experience of you.

 

 

Reasons not to rebrand

 

1/ New Management – Senior marketing people can often be hard-wired to ‘change everything’ in an effort to make their mark. “Out with the old - in with the new” is their battle cry. This kind of change is ego-driven and not brand-driven.  Not good, ever.

 

2/ Brand performing well, but you’re sick of it – (otherwise known as ‘change for change sake’) This is a pretty common and harmful mistake.  Brands need time to bed-in and get their message across - building a brand can take many years.  The more consistent a brand is, the stronger it gets.  Remember, you’re ‘in’ the brand every day, your customers aren’t – just because you’ve itchy feet, doesn’t mean they do.  Believe it or not, loyal customers don’t like change.

 

3/ To shake things up, make the brand look new – Brands are not fashion items (even in the fashion industry) – enough said.

 

How will you know?

 

It’s worth repeating that ‘Rebranding should never be entered into casually’.  It can be expensive and risky if not managed properly.  Within an organisation there’s usually lots of differing opinions on the need to rebrand based on subjective experiences.  Nine times out of ten, they’re identifying symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself. For senior management to make an informed decision on whether a rebrand is needed or not, it’s important to have objective data to hand.  The most appropriate action is to commission a Brand Audit, which incorporates qualitative and quantitative research.  Performing a structured, brand audit in-house is possible but you’ll need the necessary skills and resources.  Additionally, you may struggle to come up with independent findings. It’s always advisable to engage the services of professional brand consultants.

 

A Brand Audit is primarily a health check of your brand as it is today.  It provides a clear picture of your brand as it relates to its audience and competitors.  Not only will a Brand Audit accurately indicate whether a rebrand is required, it also provides the solid foundation upon which the new Brand Strategy can be based.  Effectively the brand audit shows where you are now, relative to where you want to be (positioning).  The next logical step is to develop your Brand Strategy, which is the roadmap for getting your brand to its new position.

 

Current Successful Rebrand Example

 

We’re presently witnessing one of the greatest repositioning exercises in European aviation history.  Yes that airline we all used to love to hate – RYANAIR.  We say ‘presently’, as this is an ongoing work-in-progress.  Primarily Ryanair is a very successful company but have recognised they’re not quite perfect.  The aim is to keep the fundamental touchpoints that work and correct the ones that are holding them back.

 

Since Michael O’Leary took over as CEO in 1994 and built Ryanair into one of the most successful low cost carriers in Europe, it’s been difficult to separate the man from the brand.  Similar to how it was difficult to distinguish Steve Jobs from Apple.  O’Leary is well known for his outspoken no-nonsense, ‘take it or leave it’ attitude and this is carried through to the brand.  For over 20 years Ryanair had had a unique image all of its own.

 

In 2014 O’Leary and the board of Ryanair, coming under increasing pressure finally acknowledged that customer care is important if they want to retain and grow their customer base.  The attitude they previously adopted was becoming more and more unacceptable and had resulted in a sizable hard-core of travellers who refused to fly with the airline.

Following this volte-face, they announced a new approach to their customers - in other words, a repositioning rebrand.

 

Old Brand

  • Cheap fares
  • Down-market look
  • Poor Website
  • Unreserved seating
  • “Brusque” & uncaring customer service
  • Garish aircraft Interiors and cheap-styled uniforms
  • Unapologetic loose talk from the CEO
  • Tough cabin baggage policy
  • Expensive reprinting for lost boarding cards

 

New Brand

  • Cheap fares
  • More upmarket styling
  • Redesigned user-friendly website
  • Reserved, priority and business seating
  • Friendlier more caring service
  • Redesigned “designer” uniforms
  • New muted colours
  • New aircraft and redesigned cabin interiors
  • Increased cabin baggage allowance

 

It’s still too early to say how successful this rebrand is but their revenues for the first quarter in 2016 are up 25% at €245m after tax.  Not a bad start.  Interestingly Ryanair have chosen not to redesign their aircraft livery yet, but surely it’s just a matter of time.  We’ll be watching.

 

If you’re still reading this, stop! Go to work on your brand.

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